Gaining a seat on the UNCSW is one of many achievements that Afghan women have made during the last two decades. Despite the threats, harassment, and attacks, Afghan women have made progress, from participating in presidential and provincial elections to winning a seat in parliament.
The Afghan “peace” process is intensifying, with talks soon to begin between the government and Taliban. But advances in women’s rights over the last decades, including the opportunities created by increased literacy and access to education, are at risk of betrayal by a rushed negotiation designed exclusively to advance U.S. strategic interests, with neither the Afghan government nor civil society and women’s rights groups having been meaningfully involved.
The total number of girls enrolled in schools across Afghanistan has gone from only 9,000 in 1999, to more than 2.4 million girls today. This fragile success story is now under threat.
Ahead of the Intra-Afghan talks, expected in days, a coalition of Afghan women’s rights groups have released an open letter to Taliban leadership calling for a peaceful resolution to the four decades of war, reaffirming their position to preserve and build on the gains of the last 20 years, and calling for a meeting with senior members of the group.
“The horrific images of babies and mothers shocked my soul, and made me numb. I felt so powerless and helpless. It was the first time in my life I felt awful pain and hatred. My love of humanity was tested so hard, as I felt that I had no control of myself. My only response was to scream and say again: It was an attack on the Hazara community.”
In an open letter to global women leaders, a coalition of Afghan women from across the country has asked to “stand by their side to protect women’s rights” in Afghanistan.
“With the pandemic and the world shifting their attention from Afghanistan, I worry that once again, Afghan women will fall into dark times. We must do what we can to prevent that from happening.”
Afghan women have repeatedly asked for a ceasefire especially during the month of Ramadan and once again ask global leaders to “come together and do everything in your power to push for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan.”
“The Taliban atrocities against Afghan women have simply not stopped. It gets worse and worse as it can be seen by the attacks of maternity hospital in Kabul today. The U.S. must not desert Afghan women. The so-called peace deal between the US and the Taliban simply did not work.”
Given the scope and urgency of the challenges facing women and girls during the pandemic, there are immediate actions individuals and governments can take to protect women and girls in the most vulnerable situations.
Twenty-five-year-old Marzia Akbar is part of a small group of female psychologists. Her team runs a covert counseling clinic at a local hospital in the Herat province and have helped many victims of domestic abuse. But Herat’s stay-at-home order has caused Akbari’s team to lose contact with most of their clients.